WarioWare Inc.: Mega Party Game$

Wario and crew bring their unique brand of action to the GameCube.

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A boxed copy of WarioWare Inc.: Mega Party Game$ for the GameCube came sailing into our offices this bright and wonderful morning, and we couldn't resist throwing it in to put the game through its paces. We'd heard beforehand that Mega Party Game$ is similar to its predecessor, the brilliant Mega Micro Game$, but we were pretty shocked to find out exactly how similar the two games are. As a matter of fact, the minigames that you'll play in the single-player portion of the game are taken directly from the GBA version--right down to the same sprite-based, 2D graphics. And here's an amusing point--the minigames, at least in the early part of the game that we tried, are framed by a mock GBA border that looks suspiciously like the Game Boy Player's own interface. Coincidence?

The minigames themselves may be identical to what you played on the GBA, but there's a decent amount of window dressing in Mega Party Game$. The transitions between minigames, for instance, are really high-res and animate very smoothly, although this makes for a rather stark contrast adjacent to the slightly blurry, GBA-caliber minigame graphics. All of your old favorite characters are back, including Wario, Dribble and Spitz, and Dr. Crygor, although the between-game story sequence we saw focused on a slightly mundane elevator ride, which is a far cry from the cell phones and taxicabs of the GBA game. But then, there's a lot more of the single-player game that we haven't seen yet.

Of course, the biggest addition to Mega Party Game$ is, in fact, the party games. We tried out a couple of these in four-player mode to see how WarioWare's weird, frantic, gameplay adapts to a multiplayer setting. In the first game, the four characters were dancing on stages while a spotlight roamed around between them. When the light stopped on a character, he had to quickly play a minigame, and if he lost, he was given one strike (out of three). Sometimes the spotlight would shine on everyone at once, and each person would play the same minigame simultaneously. Amusingly, after some players were knocked out of the competition, they were able to run their characters' sprites around the screen to try to interfere with their opponents' minigame performances. Devious but fun.

The other party game we tried was based on the character 9-Volt and had us playing a card game of sorts. The four players would take turns drawing minigame cards from a deck, and when one player drew a play card, he'd have to play all of the minigames that had been drawn so far. If he won, all those cards were added to his own pile. The object here, of course, is to finish the game with all of the cards, but there are a couple of catches. If you lose one of the minigames in your sequence, you lose not only the cards you're playing for but also all the ones you've collected up to that point. Also, while one player is engaged in minigame-playing, the other three can roam around the board to attempt to steal that player's cards (as well as those of inattentive players who aren't playing). We found this party game to be a little more imaginative than the first one, and it's--hopefully--a sign of good things for the many other party games we've yet to unlock.

At this point, it seems like the single-player portion of Mega Party Game$ won't offer anything really new for people who've played Mega Micro Game$ to death, but if you haven't tried that gem, here's a new chance to see what all the fuss is about. As the title of the game implies, the multiplayer games are what will keep people coming back again and again. Will these party games stack up in the final tally? Watch for our full review of WarioWare Inc.: Mega Party Game$ next week to find out. For now, check out some new movies and screenshots of the game.

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